football -- Forest Grove records its first shutout in eight years and rolls to a lopsided 41-0 triumph over Benson in 6A non-conference gridiron action
by: Zack Palmer,

PORTLAND - Friday night saw intermittent thunderstorms roll through the Portland Metro area. Luckily, the storms missed Lincoln High School - where Forest Grove and Benson clashed in 6A non-conference gridiron action - but the Vikings brought some thunder of their own, laying a 41-0 smack down on the struggling Techmen.

Forest Grove (2-0) dominated the line of scrimmage and moved the ball at will, scoring touchdowns on four of its first five possessions en route to a 27-0 halftime lead that would grow unchecked in the second half. The lopsided win marked Forest Grove's first shutout in eight years.

Benson, meanwhile, was plagued by miscommunication and poor execution on offense. The Techmen (0-2) turned the ball over four times in the first half - including a fumble and two interceptions on three consecutive plays just before halftime - and didn't manage a first down until early in the third quarter.

'We're playing pretty physical defensively,' said Forest Grove head coach Mike McCabe. 'We're running around and laying some hat on people right now and that's good to see. We're not the biggest bunch, but we're pretty aggressive and we'll fly around and hit you.'

The Forest Grove defense forced a three-and-out on Benson's first possession, and the offense went to work hanging its first points on the board. Quarterback Brooks Baumgartner hit the edge on an option play and looked to have an easy first down when he drew a swarm of defenders and deftly pitched the ball to tailback Jake Toll, who scampered 35 yards untouched down the sideline for the first of his three first-half touchdowns.

Toll would add scoring plunges of 4 and 3 yards in the second quarter as Forest Grove built its lead to 20-0, and Baumgartner hooked up with Joey Flanery on a swing pass in the left flats for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:06 remaining to make it 27-0 just before halftime.

'We deferred to the second half because we wanted to go out early and make a statement with our defense,' said McCabe. 'We wanted to go out there, shut them down, get the ball back and then go score on them.'

The Vikings did exactly that and a little bit more, but Benson sabotaged its own cause time and again in the first half. In the second quarter alone, the Techmen fumbled at their own 20-yard line, muffed a 15-yard punt out of their own end zone, fumbled again at their own 9 and threw interceptions on the final two plays of the half.

Benson wouldn't even get a first down until early in the third quarter, but even that success was short-lived as Jake Freeman picked off a pass near midfield and returned it to the 6, setting up Forest Grove's fifth touchdown of the night - a 1-yard dive by fullback Matt Winterbourne.

Forest Grove subbed liberally in the fourth quarter, and it was yet another Benson turnover that led to the Vikings' final score of the night. With 10 minutes left in the game, Omar Miranda intercepted a pass and Forest Grove began a methodical drive that included a powerful first-down run by Chris Beck and an 11-yard pass from Aaron Huson to Chris Hormann on third-and-six. Connor Boyer capped the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run straight up the gut and Leif Draznin-French booted the extra point for the final 41-0 margin of victory.

'It was a good win. We made some mistakes along the way, but we talked about the fact that if we want to be a good team, we just have to do things consistently,' said McCabe. 'Offense, defense, special teams - we want to get after it all at the same level instead of having highs and lows. Just maintain a nice, even buzz. We tried to do that tonight and I think we did a pretty good job of it.'

Forest Grove rushed for 211 yards in the win. Toll carried 19 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns, and Winterbourne had 11 carries for 45 yards and a score. Baumgartner attempted just 10 passes, completing three for 29 yards.

Benson, meanwhile, mustered just 149 yards of total offense while turning the ball over five times.

Forest Grove will be back in action Friday on the road against Franklin (0-2). That game will kick off at 7 p.m. in Portland.

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